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Rush to publication

I'm about to break dance in a minefield, but at this point,
keeping quiet would bother me more.

I'm also going to come right to the point. A lot of people
in the press owe AMD an apology for their sloppiness in a desire to be first.
Numerous stories on a variety of sites, tech and general news sites alike,
rushed out stories last Friday that gave the impression, overtly or slyly, that
Dell was dumping AMD product.

It all stemmed from when people searched for some Dell
consumer products with AMD chips and were told "Shop for Dell computers
with AMD processors in retail stores. See our retail partners for details.
Computers with AMD processors are not available online."

That statement in and of itself was incorrect, as Dell's consumer AMD products were being taken off Dell.com and
moving to retail. But if you want a business computer, like a Vostro for a
small business or a PowerEdge server, you could definitely get them with AMD
processors.

And so, off that one item on Dell.com, whole stories were written
and posted on news sites all over the Internet, not based on comment or
statements from the two companies but on speculation and backfill. The writers
would state the text from Dell.com and then rehash AMD's recent problems and
speculate on what a bad blow it would be.

And they were all wrong. I read four or five stories, all of
a similar vein, in between my calls to Dell and a market analyst for some
perspective. Finally I gave up when I realized none of these people had
bothered to do Journalism 101 and call Dell for a comment (many of these sites have since updated their stories to erase their original reports). One of the stories
ran an update at the bottom of their speculation and doom and gloom, so after
you read all that negativity you got the truth.

Now, I will make no claim to journalistic perfection, but I
can't sit by quietly, either. This is the latest incident involving news
outlets more interested in being first than being right. The move from print to
Internet publishing in the past decade has me and many of my colleagues feeling
like we're never off the job, but is this what we've become?

Some may dismiss me as overblowing the issue, but it goes to
two issues: credibility and public perception. The mainstream press has all but
blown its credibility, mostly due to political bias as opposed to rushing a
story out before engaging in a basic fact check.

In 1997, the American Society of Newspaper Editors
commissioned the multi-year Journalism Credibility Project, where they
interviewed 3,000 Americans of varying backgrounds. The results were published
in 1999 in a report called "Examining Our Credibility: Perspectives of the
Public and the Press," and they were not pretty.

It found 78 percent of U.S. adults felt there is bias in the
news media and 77 percent believe newspapers pay lots more attention to stories
that support their own point of view. At 77-78 percent, that's not just
conservatives saying the press is biased like they always seem to do, that's
pretty much across the board.

The point is the press's credibility is shot with a lot of
people, which is in part why ratings and circulations are flatlining. I readily
acknowledge that there's also a media shift going on as well that's playing a
part in that decline, too. Where is the shift going? Toward the Internet, and
it was Internet publications that blew it.

It leads to issue two, misleading the public. When the
Dell/AMD story was submitted to FARK, my favorite news aggregator, this was the
headline: "That whooshing sound? It's the soon-to-be-heard sound of the
breeze blowing through empty AMD factories after Dell slips a knife into the
back of their business plan."

Smarter FARKers took the submitter to task in the story's
reaction/response section, showing that a good number of people knew the
submission line was totally wrong, but it shows what happens when a misperception
is put out there. How many people incorrectly thought the exact same thing when
they read reports that Dell was dumping AMD? At what point does it become
self-fulfilling prophecy, like the recession warnings John Chambers talked
about recently?

To be sure, Dell is a little frustrated with AMD, said
In-Stat analyst Jim McGregor. "Dell signed on to AMD when it was the
shining star and we haven't seen innovative new products since then, so it
leaves Dell wondering," he told me.

Moving AMD product to retail is hardly a bad thing, McGregor
noted, as did John Spooner of Technology Business Research in my story.
"Where AMD is having their success is in the retail channel and where
Intel has its success is the corporate channel. Is that really a mismatch here?
You put your products where you have your best fit," said Mcgregor.

AMD has more than enough problems right now. It does not
need the gross disservice of impatient journalists rushing out incorrect
stories without bothering to do basic digging first. I'm calling some of my
peers on the carpet with great reluctance, but am doing so none the less
because I don't want to see AMD wronged, Dell wronged, or our sector of
journalism suffer the same loss of credibility as other segments of the media.

 

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